Minnesota Workplace Attack Lawyer

The Meshbesher Law Firm recently received a call from a factory worker who was assaulted by a co-employee. The injured worker had complained to her boss that the co-worker who was to take over her machine on the next shift was perpetually late, which forced her to either keep working late or shut down the line. The co-worker got in trouble from the boss when she showed up to work and took out her anger by grabbing and injuring the caller. The caller wondered whether the claim would be covered by her employer’s workers compensation insurer or by her own health insurance.

In Minnesota if you are assaulted by a co-worker on the job, your injuries are usually covered by workers’ compensation. This means your employer’s workers compensation insurer typically would have to pay for your medical bills and two thirds of your wage loss for the period of time you miss work due to your injuries. This is a good thing because your abusive co-worker typically can’t afford to pay for your time off work and medical bills.

Interestingly, in Minnesota the question which comes into play in a co-worker assault is the motivation of the attacker.

Minnesota Statute Section 176.021 requires employers to pay compensation in every case of personal injury or death of an employee arising out of and in the course of employment.

Minnesota law on at work assaults grew out of the case of Hanson v. Robitshek Schneider Co., 11 W.C.D. 463, 297 N.W. 19 (Minn. 1941). The court in Hanson developed a three group test as to whether workplace attacks are covered.

Group One cases are non-compensable. They occur when the attacker was motivated by personal animosity or hatred of his co-worker which arose from reasons unrelated to work.

Group Two cases are compensable. They arise when an assault occurs due to the activities of the victim as an employee.

Group Three cases fall in the middle and are sometimes compensable. They involve attacks by unknown assailants whose motivations cannot be determined.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals in Parker v. Tharp and Honeywell, 409 NW 2d 915 (1987) heard a case in which a worker Parker was injured by a coworker Tharp who got angry while they were planning a corporate lunch together. Tharp shoved Parker out of his office, injuring her.

The Parker Court stated that the fundamental question is whether the claimant was injured not merely while she was at work, but because she was at her employment, in touch with associations and conditions inseparable from it. The Parker court applied the Hanson three group test and ruled that workers compensation benefits were available to the injured party. The Parker court said that the injury occurred at the workplace, during working hours, and arose out of a discussion about office affairs.

The Minnesota Supreme Court in Jones vs. Schiek’s Cafe, 152 NW2d 356, (Minn. 1967) reached the opposite opinion in a case they heard where a doorman, Carter, was attacked by a busboy, Jones, who apparently held a grudge about being accidentally jostled on the stairs by Carter two hours earlier in the day. Jones brooded about the jostling for two hours then tried to punch Carter in the head when he left work. Jones was injured when Carter defended himself with a knife. Jones sought workers compensation benefits. The Supreme Court found Jones’ injury to be non-compensable in work comp.

The Jones Court wrote: “There may be exceptional cases, as cited by the commission, where strains and tensions may be deemed so inherent in the nature of the work and so productive of spontaneous industrial altercations as to give rise to work connected injury or death. We have never however, accorded that stratus to any and all altercations simple because the incident in some remote way might be said to touch upon the employment relationship. The Supreme Court felt too much time had passed from the initial jostling to the attack for it to be considered a spontaneous reaction to a work event and instead said it was personal animosity which caused the injury.

We told the caller to be sure to file a first report of injury for the accident with her employer as it would appear to meet the criteria established by the Minnesota courts for a compensable work related injury.

If you have a questions about a work injury or need a workplace assault lawyer, please call the Meshbesher Law Firm at 612-349-5215 for a free consultation.